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24 Mar, 2013 16:15

Saudi Arabia ‘threatens to ban’ Skype, WhatsApp, other instant messaging apps

Saudi Arabia ‘threatens to ban’ Skype, WhatsApp, other instant messaging apps

The Saudi Arabian government has threatened to ban the use of instant messaging applications because of failure to control them, Saudi media reveal. It comes a month after the minister for media and culture confirmed censorship of Twitter.

“The Communications and Information Technology Commission has requested companies operating the applications to meet the regulatory requirements to avoid their suspension in the kingdom,” sources told Saudi news site Sabq.

“The commission is now coordinating with the application operators on the issue,” they said.

Companies were given one week to deal with the situation and decide upon the required technical measures.

The sources stressed that the procedure was “in accordance with regulatory procedures,” denying claims that attributed the decision to commercial motivations.

Messaging applications such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber are at risk of being banned, Al Arabiya reported.

It’s the latest move by the ultra-conservative Gulf Kingdom, whose government recently admitted censorship of Twitter.

Just last month, Saudi Arabian Minister for Media and Culture Abdel Aziz Khoga called on citizens to “raise their awareness” and contribute to the censorship taken up by the ministry.

“People have to take care of what they are writing on Twitter,” the minister said.

“It’s getting harder to observe around three million people subscribing to the social network in the kingdom,”
he added.

The government’s censorship of the social media application led to the December arrest of Turki al-Hamad, a liberal Saudi writer accused of “insulting Islam” on his Twitter account.

Hamad was arrested on the orders of Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdel Aziz, who was tipped off by a religious organization.

In 2010, Saudi Arabia banned the use of Blackberry phones to send and receive messages, citing concerns that the communications were encrypted and could not be monitored, therefore hindering the country’s efforts to fight terrorism and crime.